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E-M:/ funding crisis for Michigan conservation

Enviro-Mich message from "Dave Dempsey" <davedem@hotmail.com>

New poll shows Michigan?s natural resources
in funding crisis
while deemed key economic asset

A survey released by Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy revealed 72 percent of Michigan respondents were surprised to learn natural resource and environmental protection programs (including the DNR and DEQ) receive less than 1 percent of state?s general fund combined. In comparison the Department of Corrections alone receives approximately 20 percent.

The average respondent estimated natural resources protection between 10 and 11 percent of the state general fund, 10 percent more than current funding levels. And respondents ranked those key economic assets ahead of corrections, state highways and roads as a top priority in receiving full funding. Additionally, 74 percent said the state should do everything possible to protect funding of recreational lands and waters and not consider selling lands to balance the budget.

Heart of the Lakes Executive Director Rachel Kuntzsch commented, ?Environmental protection, conservation, and recreation programs are not amenities. They are essential to Michigan?s long-term prosperity. Failure to invest in them jeopardizes our greatest competitive advantage ? our quality of life. We must reverse the current trend of disinvestment in these assets and recognize our natural resources as a vital piece of the state?s economic recovery plan.?

The Emergency Financial Advisory Panel appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm apparently agrees. In its report dated February 2, 2007 the panel urged a ?reinvestment in those elements that create the quality of life that knowledge-based workers seek.?

Specifically, the panel wrote, ?Michigan is a special place, endowed with the magnificent Great Lakes, excellent higher education institutions, and superb cultural and natural offerings ? Michigan must end the disinvestment in education and those other assets that define the quality of life that knowledge-based workers seek?cultural offerings, natural resources, and vibrant cities.?

According to the Department of Natural Resources, for every $1 invested in conservation and natural resources in Michigan, the state?s economy receives a $116 return on investment. Yet during the past three decades, the share of state funding for natural resource protection has declined significantly. Heart of the Lakes and other groups are joining forces to secure adequate funding levels for natural resource and environmental protection as a means to increase the state?s economic viability.

Complete results of the survey, conducted by EPIC-MRA between January 28 and February 2, can be found at: www.heartofthelakes.org

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